Screen » Film Reviews

Black Snake Moan


This one is difficult to classify. It's decidedly different than anything else with which I'm familiar.

In perhaps the most bizarre student-teacher relationship since Mr. Miyagi tutored Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid, Samuel L. Jackson (Snakes on a Plane) plays Lazarus, an over-the-hill blues musician whose wife has just left him. He tries his hand at exorcising demons from Rae, a young woman played by Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow), a victim of childhood abuse who acts out sexually.

The bulk of the film deals with the bluesman's methods of teaching the girl to respect herself. But as if the age and racial differences weren't enough to visually set this one apart, Lazarus' unconventional tactics are. After finding Rae beaten unconscious and clad only in a cutoff sweatshirt and underwear, he takes her back to his home where he chains his unwilling pupil to the radiator so she won't be able to leave. Naturally, Lazarus' few acquaintances who do catch on to the plan are taken aback. He, however, remains determined.

When Rae's boyfriend Ronnie—played by musician-slash-actor Justin Timberlake—returns from a stint in the Army, he's forced to face her indiscretions, along with his own issues of inadequacy and anxiety. Lazarus helps with those, too.

It's unclear what type of audience is going to truly understand or enjoy a picture like this since it prominently features violence and sexuality—Ricci is topless or nearly naked for most of the film. Garnering some points for a grounded moral and loads more for originality, however, it's a title worthy of the adventurous renter.